About ten years ago, people who make websites dropped table hacks in favor of CSS layouts, which turned out to be a bit of a revolution. Web standardistas have set the path for the web as we now know it. Today, those same people are introducing responsive web design and the industry is buzzing again. We chose to comply to the spirit of web standards a decade ago and we’re doing the same today. And as was the case with separating style from content in 2002, ten years on, one web development feels equally as natural and meaningful today.

However, a lot of web people are being cautious towards responsive web design. Two issues that I feel are coming up most often as possible disadvantages to RWD are:

  • it requires more effort
  • it requires a change in the process

I agree. I can see it becoming a disadvantage for anyone who didn’t invest time to catch up, especially agencies. I’m assuming it was a problem for pretty much everyone at a certain point. It certainly was for me.

More effort

Naturally, we need to make an effort to learn new things. This extra effort takes time. But hey, we’re people who make websites, so we’ve grown accustomed to that, right? It’s undoubtedly a big part of our job. We’ve had the same situation with the introduction of web standards, CSS positioning, web typography, grids on the web… The list goes on. No web designer can afford to stand still. We know we need to keep in touch with new techniques and methods. We know we need to constantly improve. We’ve signed up for this. Therefore, I do not see more effort being an issue.

After making the effort to get familiar with the idea of responsive web design, we need to brush up our skills and make changes to the process of developing websites. It’s a jump from theory into practice.

Change in Process

The process of making websites is also constantly changing. It is by no means the same as it was a couple of years ago. Web designers are always upgrading old techniques or thinking up new ones. Those techniques lead to a change of the process. Out with the old, in with the new.

Probably the least favorite part of my old development process was something I like to call static comp ping-pong. For years, web designers have been playing ping-pong with clients to polish static eye-candy. Those days, thankfully, are gone. Ultimately, we’ve learnt that static comps ping-pong is a wasted effort. We’ve adapted, and now we deliver interactive mockups—prototypes in the browser. Focusing on content and tackling it as a design problem brings better results. Getting into HTML and CSS as soon as possible is a real time saver and it benefits both the designer and the client. Instead of meeting with the client to discuss how things look, we’re discussing how things work.

Improving the process could mean we may need more time in one phase of the project, but it could also mean we will need less in another. For me, this was exactly the case. Once you learn and implement new techniques, you’re back on track. So, again, I am not seeing change in process being a real disadvantage.

What it All Boils Down To

The thing is, it’s all just a matter of adapting to the change. Extra effort and a change in process are just elements of this adaptation. What responsive web design—or any improvement on the web—implies is learning, testing, improving. It implies keeping up with the developments in the industry and education of both web designers and clients. Nothing more, nothing less.

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